Wednesday, September 23, 2015



Immerse yourself in the food and wine culture of Sonoma County at Taste of Sonoma at MacMurray Estate Vineyards. Kate MacMurray invites you to enjoy an afternoon of strolling through the historic MacMurray Estate Vineyards property while sipping and savoring the very best of Sonoma County’s rich wines and delectable cuisine. With more than 200 wineries pouring thousands of wines, and over 60 local chefs whipping up divine pairings, Taste of Sonoma at MacMurray Estate Vineyards delivers a once-in-a-lifetime experience for oenophiles and foodies alike. Informative and entertaining wine seminars, lively cooking demonstrations and so much more make for an enchanting afternoon enjoying the best of Sonoma County living. Named one of the “10 Best Wine and Food Events in the United States” by Celebrated Living magazine, Taste of Sonoma is a coveted ticket — Get yours before they sell out!



MacMurray Estate Vineyards is deeply rooted in Sonoma County. Our namesake vineyard, MacMurray Ranch, has been a farmstead since the 1850s, farmed by the Porter family until actor Fred MacMurray bought the ranch in 1941. Fred embraced the rancher’s lifestyle, raising prize-winning cattle and farming crops here for decades, while his children rode horses through the hills. Fred’s daughter—the actress, screenwriter and activist Kate MacMurray—retains an indelible tie to the estate, helping us share the heritage of our namesake vineyard, historic property and celebrated wine.

Transformed into a world-class vineyard in 1996, MacMurray Ranch quickly became one of the Russian River Valley’s most acclaimed Pinot Noir vineyards.  Today, MacMurray Estate Vineyards has grown to encompass estate vineyards throughout the Russian River Valley and the Central Coast, but we continue to honor our roots and the history of the MacMurray Ranch. The original buildings have been faithfully restored, and the 1,500-acre property is home to old-growth oaks, Redwood trees and indigenous wildlife. Winemaker Boyd Morrison and his team craft our collection of Pinot Noir wines, beginning with our home vineyard and extending to several estate vineyard sites throughout the Russian River Valley and the Central Coast.



Since brothers Ernest and Julio Gallo began to turn their dream into reality over 80 years ago, the roots of the Gallo family tree have extended deep into the Winery. Today their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren work in the Winery, carrying on the family tradition and values – a strong work ethic, a drive for perfection and a focus on quality.

The Gallo family still believes family ownership is the most effective way for the Winery to continue as a world leader in the wine industry.

Today, E. & J. Gallo Winery is the world's largest family-owned winery and the largest exporter of California wine.

Since its inception, the hallmark of E. & J. Gallo Winery’s founders has been their unwavering commitment to quality. By taking the utmost care in each and every step of the grape growing and winemaking process, E. & J. Gallo Winery has consistently delivered outstanding wines for every occasion and price. The Winery continues to be at the forefront of the winemaking industry by researching and determining the very best regions to grow grapes, using the most effective techniques for grape growing, and lastly, employing the best ways to craft world-class wines.

Gina Gallo followed the footsteps of her grandfather Julio Gallo to find her calling as winemaker for Gallo Family Vineyards Sonoma Reserve. Today she creates award-winning wines from grapes grown by her brother Matt Gallo.

For Gina, a career in winemaking was inevitable. During high school she worked summers at E. & J. Gallo Winery, and after college she joined the company full time in the sales department.
She was drawn to the creative process of making wine, and years later she began studying at the acclaimed Viticulture and Enology program at the University of California, Davis. At the Winery, she apprenticed under 30-year veteran Marcello Monticelli.

Gina is immediate past president of the International Wine & Spirit competition.



Our story begins more than 50 years ago, when a celebrated American dancer named Rod Strong settled in Sonoma County to pursue a second lifelong creative passion: winemaking. Rodney Strong Vineyards was the 13th winery bonded in the newly discovered Sonoma County wine industry. A trio of winemaking paths crossed when Rick Sayre joined the team as Winemaker in 1979, and again when the Klein Family, 4th generation California farmers, purchased the winery in 1989 and initiated a renewed commitment of modern artisan winemaking. Through the years, Rodney Strong Vineyards has earned the reputation for critically acclaimed Single Vineyard and Reserve wines, stand out Estate releases and best-in-class Sonoma County varietal wines.

Rachel Voorhees is a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers, where she graduated at the top of her class. Raised in the San Francisco Bay Area by Old World wine collectors, Rachel found a passion for wine and food early in life and credits her father for her palate and her mother for her culinary skills. Rachel studied at the International Culinary Center in 2012 where she continued to hone her wine pairing skills and wine knowledge. She was the food & wine writer for BevMo! and before coming to Rodney Strong in December 2013. Rachel’s focus is to educate people about wine, Sonoma County and Rodney Strong Vineyards. She travels throughout the country entertaining key members of the trade, conducting classes and seminars and sharing the wonders of wine and food.

After receiving her B.A. in Communications and Psychology from Vanderbilt University, she continued her education at Notre Dame de Namur where she received her Masters of Education. She is currently studying for her Certified Wine Educator and Advanced Sommelier credentials. In her free time, Rachel loves spending time with her two children, creating unique food and wine pairings and gardening.



Being a family-owned winery absolutely affects our winemaking. It affords us the luxury to take the long view. We can take risks and grow our grapes in mountain and hillside vineyards- even though it is more difficult for both the farmer and the vine. But grapes grown on mountains have more character and more flavor—and that’s why we grow them there.

As a family-run business, we can put the long-term interests of future generations above short-term financial gains. Our success will be measured by generations of family, rather than by numbers on quarterly reports. We can't just be thinking about today, or tomorrow, or this quarter, or this year. We have to take the long view—100, 200 years—and think of future generations and the environment in which they'll live.

There are some special places where you just want to be, to live. And among those places are the coastal maritime, cool hills and mountains of the California coast. I’m at peace and spiritually satisfied when I'm in the mountains and hills and benches of California—the very places where the best grapes thrive. The land gives us what we need. It gives us our shelter, our food, our clean air—all of the things we need, except for one: family.

Taste is everything here at Kendall-Jackson. And we don't just mean the wines. The Kendall-Jackson Wine Center is a culinary destination for foodies and wine lovers from all over the country, and the creative force behind the Wine Center is our team of culinary adventurers: our chefs.

Matt has been a member of Kendall-Jackson’s culinary team for many years.  A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America Matthew has worked in the kitchen, gardens and cellars of Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates for nearly a decade. He brings to the table a wide variety of cooking experience from restaurants, healthcare, catering and corporate dining. Matthew specializes in vegetable dishes and the Kendall-Jackson culinary gardens offer an endless palette of seasonal produce and herbs to draw from.



The Sonoma County Winegrape Commission, also known as Sonoma County Winegrowers (SCW), was established in 2006 as a marketing and educational organization dedicated to the promotion and preservation of Sonoma County as one of the world’s premier grape growing regions. SCW has oversight by California Department of Food and Agriculture which supports producer regions.
With more than 1,800 growers, SCW’s goal is to increase awareness and recognition of the quality and diversity of Sonoma County’s grapes and wines through dynamic marketing and educational programs targeted to wine consumers around the world.

In January 2014, SCW committed to becoming the nation’s first 100% sustainable winegrowing region by 2019.

Karissa Kruse is President of the Sonoma County Winegrowers, a marketing and educational organization dedicated to the promotion and preservation of Sonoma County as one of the world’s premier grape growing regions. Karissa joined Sonoma County Winegrowers as Director of Marketing in September 2012 and was named President for the organization on May 1, 2013. Karissa earned a BS in Economics and an MBA in Marketing from Wharton School of Business at University of Pennsylvania. She has over 17 years of experience in various aspects of marketing, brand management, strategic planning and business development. Karissa has worked for companies such as General Mills, Universal Studios, Mattel and Dairy Management, where Karissa worked for seven years on behalf of dairy farmers nationally. She is a partner in a small winery, Argot Wines, and the owner of a 25 acre parcel in Bennett Valley, with five acres planted to grapes. Karissa is on the Advisory Committee for Wharton’s Initiative on Environmental Leadership and on the boards of the Sonoma County Tourism, Sonoma County Harvest Fair, Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation, Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce, Santa Rosa Junior College Shone Farm Foundation, Ag Trust Committee and Viticulture Advisory Committee and a member of Leadership Santa Rosa Class 29.  Kruse was selected as a NBBJ Women in Business 2014 Honoree and 40 under Forty Award recipient in 2012.  

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

9/16-Larry Van Aalst & Nicole Nielsen talk to Kate MacMurray & Ray Johnson

While the exceptional MacMurray Ranch Vineyard is home to some of California’s most renowned Pinot Noir vines, for Kate MacMurray, it is also a place of long-held, cherished memories. The MacMurray family farmed crops and raised cattle on this ranch for many years, taking an active role in the local agricultural community. Kate grew up hiking and riding her horse through the ranch’s majestic rolling hills.

ray_johnson.jpgRay Johnson - Director, Wine Businees Institute at Sonoma State University

Ray Johnson is the Director of the Wine Business Institute at Sonoma State University. He also writes about wine from his home in Sonoma County. 

Ray has been writing about wine, food and the destinations where these passions intersect since 1980. He joined the wine business in 1986, leading tours for the public and trade at the historic Christian Brothers’ Greystone Cellars in Saint Helena, California.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

9/2 Larry Van Aalst visits with Matthew Lowe & Tucker Taylor

A special Heirloom Tomato Festival Report

Matthew Lowe- CIA Graduate & Kendall-Jackson Gardens
CIA graduate and ten years experience with the Kendall-Jackson gardens, makes Matt the pro to know at the KJ hospitality facility, just north of Santa Rosa. Matt will bring us some new releases and tell us what  to expect at the upcoming   Heirloom Tomato Festival.

Tucker Taylor -  Head Gardner, KJ Gardens
Head Gardner at the KJ gardens , Tucker is a miracle worker. With more than 175 different tomatoes and a wealth of other fruits , herbs, and vegetables , the gardens are a master work of the man who has a world wide reputation for excellence. We will talk about this years growing season and taste some of the bounty.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

8/19-Larry Van Aalst talks with Carolyn Stark

Carolyn Stark - Executive Director, The Sonoma County Vintners Association
As a new Executive Director of The Sonoma County Vintners Association, Carolyn has hit the ground running with the upcoming Sonoma County Wine Weekend. We will be talking about what I believe to be the best of Northern California's  wine events. Friday to Sunday of Labor Day Weekend the Vintners Association hits it out of the park with lunches, dinners , and The Taste of Sonoma , held at MacMurray Ranch. Carolyn will tell us the available tickets and have one of the participating Winemakers stop by to give us the inside take on this great party.

8/5-Larry Van Aalst visits with Steve Heller & Dan Berger

Steve Heller -  Owner, Heller Estate Vineyards
As the owner of Heller Estate Vineyards , Steve has a very busy life. Now as the leader of the vineyard owners in the new FountainGrove AVA, Steve has all that more to do getting the word out about the newest AVA in Sonoma County. We will talk about the history of FountainGrove ,and the area in the eastern part of the County , know for great grapes.

Dan Berger - Author , Newspaper Writer, Professional Wine Judge & Wine Competition Organizer
Author , Newspaper Writer, Professional Wine Judge , Wine Competition Organizer , and a man of many other talents , Dan will be with us to talk about the Central Coast Wine Competition. The new FountainGrove AVA is also on the slate of what happening on wine for this discussion.

7/22-Larry Van Aalst talks to Chris Donatiello & Karissa Kruse


Chris Donatiello - Owner, C.Donatiello Winery
Owner of C.Donatiello Winery in the Russian River area of Sonoma County, Chris comes from a background of wine and spirits sales in New York. With a get back to basics approach, and a focus on Pinot Noir , Chris has kept his promise of making wine that is "a joy to drink".Chris will talk about the new releases and another project he is undertaking.

Karissa Kruse - President, Sonoma County Winegrowers
President of Sonoma County Winegrowers, Karissa uses her education at The Wharton School of Business to keep order in  this large organization. Partner in a small Bennett Valley vineyard, Karissa will tell us the thrill and trials of growing grapes in one of the best places on earth.

7/8-Larry Van Aaslt visits with Dan Barwick & Carolyn Stark

Dan Barwick - Winemaker, Paradise Ridge Winery
Winemaker for Paradise Ridge Winery is a full time job for Dan but along with working a  consulting Winemaker for a number of other wineries in Sonoma County, he also is a world traveler, and is involved with the extraordinary events at Paradise Ridge.  Located in one of the most beautiful spots in the County, the Outdoor Art Gallery , the new pizza oven , and the new outdoor theatre make for a world class wine center. Dan will be with us to talk about the new releases of his award winning wines and the special events coming up this year.

Carolyn Stark-  Executive Director, The Sonoma County Vintners Association
The new Executive Director at The Sonoma County Vintners Association is off to a great start with a unique  approach to a barrel auction which raised more than one million dollars for charity this year. The real news the Sonoma County Wine Weekend , coming up Labor Day. One of the nicest of all wine country events The Wine Weekend runs all three days of the long weekend. Exceptional food, wine, and special events make this an event not to be missed. Carolyn will tell you all about the weekend that usually sells out.